Black Stick Blair Tarrant vs El Niche Cache

 Dingo alert.

Dingo alert.

Black Sticks Blair Tarrant is part of a young but experienced group of kiwi hockey players who form the core of the Men's Black Sticks team. He's also cool enough to answer some questions for us...

Take us into the Black Sticks dressing room after that loss to Germany in Rio - had you felt sporting disappointment like that previously?

That would be the worst changing room I have been in, that's for sure. I have experienced plenty of tough losses but that is easily the hardest one to take. And to be honest I still haven't watched the last 5 minutes. 

Was it harder to digest because the team came so close, or did it leave room for some pride considering the resources afforded to the team compared to other nations?

For me it was harder to digest, because we should have progressed through to the medal rounds. We are definitely competing against teams which have far greater resources but that doesn't really come into our thinking. In saying that I do know we got to a level which gave us a great opportunity to do something special, we need to emulate this in the future and not throw away everything we did just because of 4 minutes of hockey. 

What was your favourite off-field memory from the Rio Olympics?

It was pretty cool to go see other sports and especially watch the kiwis. I watched Lydia's last day that was awesome and saw Tom Walsh medal.

Rio showed how strong a position hockey is internationally non-traditional power houses impressing. Did you leave Rio encouraged with where international hockey is heading?

The international game is really strong at the moment. As RIO showed there is 8-10 teams who are genuine medal contenders. Also FIH are pushing to promote the sport and get it into the public eye more, hopefully this works well.

Any thoughts on the Southern Dogs (and ladies) not competing in the NHL this year?

Yes, it's not good enough that Southern weren't represented at the national tournament. I will leave it at that.

You're a extremely solid defender who has settled on the left-half/defender niche. Is that your preferred position? 

It definitely didn't start out as my preferred position but I really enjoy playing left defender now. 

What is the strongest aspect of your play? 

Hopefully defending/tackling and just doing my role well. 

Defenders aren't renowned for flashy stuff, although being able to hit a reverse pass flat along the turf is a necessity these days and you do all of that well. Is there a specific skill that you are trying to master at the moment?

I need to improve my aerial game, it's important as an international defender to be able to avoid pressure in many ways. So having all passing and ball carrying options in your kit-bag is crucial. There is so much video and scouting done by other teams, if they recognise a weakness as a defender you will get pressed all day. 

How did the link with HC Rotterdam eventuate?

HC Rotterdam has a good link with kiwi players, starting years back through Scratch (Ryan Archibald) and Phil Burrows. Since then most years they have had at least one kiwi player. The year HC Rotterdam won the league they had three kiwis on their books (Simon Child, Nick Wilson and Steve Edwards). Also, my fellow Southern Dog Hugo played here a few seasons ago. 

What are some signature elements in how European hockey is played?

The biggest difference I am finding is the creativity through the midfield. We sometimes might view how they play as 'risky' but after seeing it in club hockey I can see huge advantages. 

Are you playing a similar role with Rotterdam as you play with the Black Sticks or have you been able to branch out?

I am playing 'free defender' over here, so the same position I play for Southern Dogs and Howick Pakuranga. 

Favourite off-field thing about playing club hockey in Europe?

Cycling round the city and exploring is pretty cool.

Favourite thing to do when chillin' back home in the deep south of Aotearoa?

I usually only get down south over the Christmas period these days. But always get a few rounds of golf in and rustle up a few Paua patties.

Favourite meal to eat away from hockey?

Pork roast and a cold Speights.

Is there a piece of advice that you were given that you've never forgotten?

Not so much advice, but just the training attitude that got drilled into me when I was growing up. There was a group of us (Hugo Inglis, Nick Ross, Kane Russell and myself) who trained together with Dave Ross and he trained us pretty hard. He taught us the importance of basics and that training hard and having good basics out-does all the flashy stuff. 

Now you've got a few years to your name as an international hockey player, what would advice would you give a youngster?

Enjoy trainings because there are going to be a lot! And learn quickly what areas you need to improve.